Environmental Defense Fund has launched a project with Houston-based nonprofit Achieving Community Tasks Successfully (ACTS) and Texas Southern University to bring community-led air monitoring to a neighborhood surrounded by several pollution sources.
Pleasantville, located on Houston’s east side, was established in 1948 as the first planned community for African-Americans in the city. Today, however, the Houston Ship Channel and one of the busiest stretches of Interstate 610, as well as a sprawling brewery, warehouses, metal recyclers and salvage yards, push hard against the neighborhood, producing significant concerns about environmental justice and human health.
Despite these concerns, Texas regulators have not placed an air monitor in Pleasantville to document the impacts of the pollution sources. In fact, the state’s closest monitor is about two miles away, meaning that the community’s residents are unaware of which pollutants are in the air they are breathing. As we know from our work in Oakland, a monitor this far away may miss important local pollution sources – and likely does not accurately reflect their exposures to harmful chemicals.
EDF’s new project with ACTS and Texas Southern will change that by installing at least one community-owned and -maintained monitor in Pleasantville. Through a series of community forums, residents will work with the partners to determine the monitoring effort’s goals, identify locations for the equipment and develop a long-term plan for maintaining it.
Ideally, this project will provide Pleasantville residents with data to better understand their air quality and to advocate for a cleaner environment.
There have been similar community-led monitoring projects in California, but this would be the first of its kind in Texas. We plan to share learnings from this project, and hope that it will inspire other communities across Texas and along the Gulf Coast to launch monitoring networks of their own.
Tresaugue is the senior communications manager for the Environmental Defense Fund.
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